1.1 The Problem
Singapore is plagued by the issue of an ageing population due to declining birth rates and longer life expectancies, as exemplified by Singapore's increasingly constricted demographic pyramid with the proportion of citizens aged 65 and above increasing from 9.4% to 14.4%. (Figure 1.1)
Figure 1.1: Generation of baby boomers moving progressively to third age
While Singapore is at the forefront of technological advancement and progresses rapidly in its drive for a Smart Nation, the senior population is unfortunately vulnerable of being ‘lost' in this increasingly digitalised society.
1.2 Current Efforts
At present, IT courses administered by Infocomm Media Development Authority at Silver Infocomm Junctions (Figure 1.2), as well as Seniors for Smart Nation Courses held at Community Centres by People's Association (Figure 1.3 and 1.4) mainly place emphasis on getting seniors acquainted with functional technological skills, in order to address the potential risk of seniors being left out of the Smart Nation movement.
Figure 1.2: SIJ Course Schedule
As seen in a brochure listing Smart Nation courses available at Community Centres (Figure 1.3 and 1.4), an overwhelmingly large proportion of courses focus on familiarising seniors with technological devices like computers and smartphones, along with the usage of online applications and services. Though this is a good start for technologically inept seniors to acquaint themselves with the Smart Nation movement, there is more potential for courses to be used as a medium to reduce seniors' fears of technology while simultaneously empowering more technologically competent seniors to create solutions for their peers.
Figure 1.3: Table of content of a brochure listing mobile app courses
under Seniors for Smart Nation Nov 2017 - Apr 2018
Figure 1.4: Table of content of a brochure listing computer courses
under Seniors for Smart Nation Nov 2017 - Apr 2018
Our group proposes that robotics will be the main activity incorporated into the courses. Robotics requires participants to do hands-on activities which will suit the kinesthetic learning preferences of the seniors[a], as they will need more practices than the young to reinforce their learning and gain facility in acquiring new skills. Secondly, exposing the seniors through robotics familiarise seniors with robotics and reduces the intimidation towards robotics that will be widely used in daily life in the near future as assistive technology is increasingly incorporated into seniors' lives. Concurrently, we want to create new possibilities for seniors to be the creator of solutions instead of being the receiving end of solutions after these seniors are better skilled and knowledgeable in robotics. We want to advocate for a culture where seniors help seniors through robotics in the near future as the age-dependency ratio shrinks and robotics plays a vital part in several sectors concerning seniors.
1.4 Potential Crisis
As such, if the potential benefits of the courses are not maximised, seniors will continue to feel left out as assistive technology continues to be implemented in their lives such as eldercare, leading to seniors being sceptical of assistive technology and thus unable to reap maximum benefits from robotics. Additionally, as the population ages and the age-dependency ratio declines, the younger generation may be unable to support seniors in improving their well-being. Hence, seniors should consider being the ones to spearhead the changes and improvements in their daily lives and no longer need to rely on the younger generation for such improvements.
1.5 Target Audience
Our group is focusing on the Merdeka generation in Singapore which refers to the seniors born in the 1950s. These seniors are more educated than their pioneers, with the majority attaining at least primary education. The attainment of at least primary education confirms that the seniors are literate and educated enough to understand robotics courses and pick up robotics skills.
This proposal is for People's Association to conduct thematic-based initiatives[b] such as having robotic courses and a roadshow so as to appeal to more seniors and encourage them to acquire robotics skills in an enjoyable way, allowing them to overcome their fears when using robotics in the future whilst creating a new mindset that they have the possibility to invent solutions with robotics to ameliorate issues concerning their peers.
For inspiration, we will be deriving valuable learning points from the approach “GetActive! Singapore” has adopted to appeal to citizens.
To draw inspiration for our CC course, we analysed “GetActive! Singapore” and obtained two learning points. We chose “GetActive! Singapore” due to its nationwide outreach and its approach to attract and educate participants.
2.1: GetActive! Singapore
GetActive! Singapore was a campaign organised by Sport Singapore. The primary target audience was Singaporeans across the nation as it featured a series of festivals and national competitions to promote healthy living.
2.2: Learning Point #1: Low Threshold
The events organised for seniors in this campaign catered to their physical capabilities and provided them with activities that have a low threshold to participate. For instance, the Chinatown Sport Festival (Figure 2.1) was senior-focused and included exercise routines and workouts manageable for seniors regardless of their motor skills. These workouts include the ActiveSG Towel Workout and the MasterFIT Chair Workout which have less impact on participants' joints. The activities received positive feedback from seniors as recounted by Kolam Ayer Grassroots Leader Tan Ah Gek, “[the seniors were] glad to take part in such exercises [that were not] too difficult for them to pick up”.
Figure 2.1: Senior participants at Chinatown Sport Festival
By lowering the barrier of entry according to the capability and experience of seniors, it leads to greater acceptance and participation of the activities, hence, maximising the benefits to them.
2.3: Learning Point #2: First-Hand Experience
The event organised various activities that rallied participants to join in the activities and gain first-hand experience. As seen from section 2.2, seniors could participate in demonstrations and learnt how to exercise, thus acquiring sufficient knowledge and have the ability to do them independently. This is reiterated by retiree Steven Quek, who shares that “[seniors] will learn a lot of basic moves, so that they can go home and do simple workouts on their own.” Allowing participants to undergo the first-hand experience and interact through the activities can inspire them to learn more and change their behaviour and mindsets given that they know exactly what they can do or where to learn from.
2.4 Incorporation of Learning Points
The Learning Point #1, low threshold of events would be incorporated in the activities we proposed for the courses. Our activities would be catered to seniors based on their capability and perception so that our activities manageable by them. This allows us to include and appeal to a larger pool of seniors while reinforcing the notion that seniors are capable of acquiring a new skill.
We will implement first-hand experience in the roadshow for the seniors to learn more about robotics and to change the narrative that seniors can do robotics.
2.5 Our Approach
We propose People's Association to conduct a thematic-adventure based robotics course[c] to complement current CC functional courses, to appeal and inspire more seniors to pick up robotics.
As such, we intend to enhance the CC courses and conduct a roadshow that will be most effective for the seniors. Figure 2.3 shows our approach.
Figure 2.3: Outline of our solutions
In order to appeal to more seniors to acquire robotics skills, we propose for People's Association to conduct an intergenerational thematic adventure-based robotics course at CCs in collaboration with Duck Learning. Inspired by GetActive! Singapore, we intend to lower the threshold of the course to cater to seniors' capabilities. This is implemented in our choice of teaching materials and the content of our course.
3.1 MINDSTORMS EV3
Learners of the course will have the opportunity to learn about basic coding and robotics skills using LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 (Figure 3.1). EV3 is the third version of LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics platform. It has an intuitive block-based coding environment (Figure 3.1 right) which is suitable for beginners of all ages to pick up coding. 
Figure 3.1: LEGO EV3 hardware (left) and software (right)
3.2 Details of CC course
We propose that the course will be conducted at the 10 CCs offering the “Certificate for Seniors For Smart Nation”. We propose 4 weekly sessions to provide seniors ample time to learn and acquire robotics skills. Additionally, the course we propose will be intergenerational where seniors attend the course with their grandchildren, as it can stimulate the minds of seniors and allow them to learn effectively.
The lessons follow the progression of a coherent storyline where each stage of the story will be represented by one session. The theme of the story would be “traditional games”, where seniors would be accomplishing a task that brings them back to their childhood, evoking a sense of nostalgia that would motivate seniors to participate.
The storyline follows the adventure of a 10-year-old robot, E2V2, travelling back in time and experienced life before video games. E2V2 is the name of the robot as a hybrid between EV3 and the well-loved robot in the 1977 Star Wars movie, R2D2 (Figure 3.4).
Figure 3.4: R2D2 in the 1977 Star Wars movie
Figure 3.5: Storyline corresponding to Session 1
The part of the story corresponding to session 1 is shown in Figure 3.5. During the session, the participants will be introduced with the background of the story and be taught with the basics of EV3 hardware and software. By completing the task of moving the robot to pick up the battery, they will learn how to use the coding blocks to control the robot's motor and how to execute precise movement by trying out different values for the parameters.
Figure 3.6: Storyline corresponding to session 2
During session 2 (storyline shown in Figure 3.6), as E2V2 travels back to the 60s, participants will be introduced with the first traditional marble game, Tic-Tac-Toe. The participants will be taught to construct and programme a doodle bot that can draw ‘x' and ‘o'. This requires them to apply the skills they learnt in the first session but with higher precision as they are asked to draw cross and circle as good as possible. Then they can also play the game among themselves for practice.
Figure 3.7: Storyline corresponding to session 3
Session 3 (storyline shown in Figure 3.7) will be about the traditional marble game, Goli (Figure 3.8). Participants will learn to control motor rotation so that the robots can perform different moves based on the value they input for parameters. The participants are invited to play Goli with participants from other families. Such interaction among participants is preferred by seniors and is also proven to be an effective learning experience for them as they are given the opportunity to practice the skills they have learnt actively.
Figure 3.8: Traditional setup for Goli
Figure 3.9: Storyline corresponding to session 4
Session 4 (Storyline shown in Figure 3.9) will feature the last traditional activity, Bola tin. We chose bola tin due to its complexity to play with robotics, requiring participants to utilise their knowledge gained over the sessions. The intergenerational feature is especially highlighted during this session as seniors and children are expected to design the construction of their robot and discuss their strategy in playing the game. At last, the course will wrap up with a debrief and a sharing session. During the session, participants will have a chance to exchange their childhood experience with one another.
3.4 Proposed Provider of the Course
We propose Duck Learning, a local education consultancy firm, to be the provider for the course. Apart from being an exclusive partner and provider of LEGO Education, Duck Learning has collaborated with the Lifelong Learning Council to roll out intergenerational workshops to encourage people of all ages to learn to code.
By inviting Duck Learning to be the provider of the course, the course can serve as an expansion of Duck Learning's initiative, thus furthering its business potential.
Figure 3.2: Duck Learning and its various partners
The overall educational experience of the course can empower seniors with robotics skills. Apart from equipping the seniors with ‘hard skills' such as computational thinking and fundamental robotics skills using EV3, the course also benefits the seniors in the following ways.
Firstly, throughout the course, the senior and junior participants have equal participation in all activities. This feature of the course gives seniors the autonomy in decision making, thus making the seniors feel they are valued and gain a sense of satisfaction for the contribution they made.
Secondly, by adopting a storyline approach in the course, it creates a more immersive learning environment for both the seniors and children, thus encouraging them to engage in the tasks and interact with each other. The confidence and self-esteem of the seniors can be further increased when they accomplish the tasks required in each session. Through this process, seniors can become more aware of their ability and potential to learn new skills.
To raise awareness that seniors can do robotics as well and to encourage seniors to sign up for the robotics course, we propose a roadshow. Inspired by “GetActive! Singapore”, our roadshow aims to give seniors a sneak-peek on the robotics course.
We propose for People's Association[e] to host a roadshow at locations offering “Senior for Smart Nation” courses to achieve greater impact among seniors. The roadshow serves as an advertising campaign to the CC courses. We are showcasing the unique approach, such as intergenerational and nostalgia element, implemented in our course and thus create an emotional rapport with the seniors. We want to advertise the robotics course as an emotional brand by understanding seniors' motivations in learning robotics and successfully pique the seniors' interests, inspiring them to enrol in the robotics course.
4.1 Marketing Approach[f]
We adopt two marketing approaches in our roadshows to advertise the robotics. Since we are including hands-on activities, we are adopting the ‘Experiential Marketing' approach as we want to provide a genuine, favourable opportunity for seniors to experience robotics while we leave an impactful impression on seniors and promote word-to-word advertising, thus expanding our advertising impact beyond the roadshow. We are also adopting “Emotional marketing” since consumers are more likely to use their emotions to evaluate a product than information. Hence, we want to appeal to the feelings of seniors through the theme of nostalgia and emotionally connect with them in hopes of inspiring them to enrol in the robotics course.
The activities conducted in the “Exploration Corner” offers a preview of the robotics course and give seniors a taste on what they will be experiencing when attending the course.
The first attraction will be the Robot Playground where trainers will guide seniors on programming the robot to perform basic functions such as picking up a cube or rolling a ball into a cage. These challenges provoke thinking as seniors need to process how they are going to accomplish the task.[g] The hands-on approach serves as an experiential marketing strategy, where seniors can learn more about robotics and derive positive connotations as they interact with robotics. This will encourage them to embrace robotics and be motivated to pick up robotics.
The second activity is the “Build-a-figure” mini-challenge. Seniors can choose a traditional snack that they wish to build on a touchscreen monitor and watch an instructional clip that guides the seniors as they construct with the LEGO parts.
By relating robotics to seniors' childhood and emphasise them, we can initiate an emotional connection between seniors and robotics. Hence, they are inclined to enrol in the robotics course as a mode to reminisce their youth by associating robotics with nostalgia.
The third station would be an exhibition on robotics inventions have helped seniors in making their lives better. We want to inspire seniors to pick up robotics and serve the community by improving welfare by showing them examples of how they can also create a product despite their seniority. We hope to nudge the seniors into picking up robotics and propose the notion of seniors creating an impact for others.
Our proposal identified the crisis of seniors having fears of using robotics and assistive technology or unable to rely on younger generations to create solutions to improve their daily lives. Therefore, we proposed a thematic, adventure-based course for seniors to participate and learn robotics not only to overcome their anxieties when using robotics in their daily lives, but also give them the opportunity to pick up a skill that could inspire them to help others. Additionally, we proposed a roadshow that can be conducted alongside[h] the course to raise awareness that there exists a fun, enjoyable way of acquiring robotics skills
5.2 Future Extension
Our proposal is for the short run as in the years to come when more seniors are more apt [i]in technology. Hence there is a need for more advanced content for the Merdeka generation who are likely to be literate and educated[j]. We suggest a new category for seniors in the course that are more advanced so as to satisfy their needs. We will also propose implementing a mentoring system[k] in the course where experienced seniors are invited to guide and teach new seniors, allowing the experienced ones to inspire and encourage others to learn robotics while catering to the learning preferences of seniors wanting to learn from their fellow peers.[l]
5.3 End credits
In summary, our proposal addressed the need for appealing technological courses[m] to inspire more seniors in acquiring technological skills[n]. We want to inspire seniors to embrace and accept the use of robotics and empower them with robotics by encouraging them to use their knowledge and spearhead a change in society. [o]
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